2022 ANNUAL REPORT
We are excited to share the scope of our activities in 2022–the first full year of in-person operations at Epsilon Spires! After two years of adjusting our programming to respond safely to the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic, we were able to flourish fully in 2022. Epsilon Spires presented 68 events to the community in our Sanctuary, Social Engagement Salon, Gallery, Backlot Cinema, and event-specific satellite locations, consistently going above and beyond to serve our mission of bringing cutting-edge creative work from around the world to southern Vermont. We also more than doubled our revenue compared to 2021, including an 84% increase in grants and contributions and a 276% increase in ticket sales.
In addition to our programming schedule, we embarked on several successful large-scale projects. This included the High Street Mural, which we funded with over $8,000 of community donations matched 2-to-1 by a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation’s place-based economic development program Better Places. We used these funds to transform a dilapidated and graffitied wall at the entryway to downtown Brattleboro into a 2,280-square-foot mural that sparks local pride, promotes tourism, and encourages a sense of co-ownership of our public spaces. The mural was designed by artists from First Proof Press, a local community print shop, and painted in collaboration with the ArtLords, a grassroots network of Afghan muralists who have been displaced by the Taliban and resettled in Brattleboro.
Epsilon Spires believes that the benefits of creative expression and opportunities to strengthen community ties should be equally accessible to all. To activate this core value, we have launched an Outreach and Accessibility Initiative with support from The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation and The Adelard A. and Valeda Lea Roy Foundation. Epsilon Spires is now able to offer sliding-scale tickets to all of our events that require admission, which has markedly transformed our relationship with the communities we serve. During the first six months of the Initiative we dispersed over $2,500 worth of ticket subsidies to low-income Vermonters, and we anticipate a substantial uptick in participation as we increase our outreach to underserved populations in 2023.
In preparation for expanding our digital presence, Epsilon Spires has invested in reinvigorating our website, which now more fully reflects our mission and the diverse range of programming that we offer. In the coming year we will also upgrade our stage lighting system and streaming capabilities in order to create a program archive and livestream option accessible through our website, which is made possible by a Digital Capacities Grant from the Vermont Arts Council.
There are more inspiring projects in development for 2023, including an increased focus on interactive workshops and an international artist’s residency program in collaboration with the Green River Bridge Inn. We look forward to continuing to grow as an organization, while always staying true to the term Epsilon in our name, which in physics can be understood as “pushing the envelope.”
Multidisciplinary Artist’s Salon: Transcendence This summer we were thrilled to present the first installment of our annual Multidisciplinary Artist’s Salon, co-curated by Executive Director Jamie Mohr and Brattleboro-based artist and author Shanta Lee Gander. The Salon, which was funded in part by grants from Vermont Humanities and the Vermont
Community Foundation, brought five distinguished creatives of color from around the country to the idyllic Green River Bridge Inn for a weekend-long residency, where artists could exchange ideas across a variety of disciplines and share their work with the public. This year’s Salon, titled “Transcendence,” featured U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, Jasmin Agusto, Shanta Lee, Holland Andrews, and Nailah Hunter. The residency included a night of multimedia readings and musical performances, an artist’s dinner, and free interactive workshops exploring spontaneous co-creation and vocal embodiment practice.
Innovative Organ Programming Epsilon Spires is fortunate to have one of the last remaining Opus 300 pipe organs still in use today, created in 1906 by Brattleboro’s Estey Organ Company. Once used only during church services, our majestic pipe organ is now featured in a wide array of programming that includes performances by contemporary composers, curated recitals of works from throughout history and around the world, and live soundtracks to classic silent films played by some of the top accompanists in the country. In 2022 we received grants from the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and the Japan Foundation of New York to host international organists Kali Malone, a Swedish-American composer who uses canonical structures and gradually-shifting drones to explore harmony and the perception of time, and Yosuke Fujita, a Japanese sound artist who performs on a hand-built pipe organ inspired by the ancient classical music form gagaku. We also received generous support for organ programming from the Thomas Thompson Trust, the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists’ Mozingo Endowment, the New York Chapter of the American Guild of Organists’ Centennial Millennium Fund, and a grant from the Windham Foundation for our ongoing Lunchtime Pipe Organ Series, which presents one free recital each month performed by a diverse roster of organists from throughout the northeast.
Visual Art at Epsilon Spires This year we hosted a trio of local, national, and international visual artists in our gallery. The first exhibit featured work by the Burlington-based multimedia artist Lydia Kern, who combines tangible objects related to her personal experiences with pieces of translucent vinyl fabric to create ephemeral passages of light and colored shadows that evoke the stained glass windows of a church and reliquaries used to hold sacred objects. Next the gallery presented a solo show by Jude Danielson, a textile artist from Oregon who creates large-scale quilts that explore the meeting point between color perception and recognizable forms by translating pixelated photographs into
semi-abstract mosaics designed to engage the viewer’s senses of perception and recognition. The final show of the year was the interactive digital exhibit “Mundane Monsters” by Danish artist Kristoffer Ørum, who combined video projections, 3-D printed sculptures, wireless transmissions, two-dimensional works, and an augmented reality component that allowed visitors to view the exhibit through the cameras on their phones, where they saw Ørum’s “monsters” inhabiting the gallery.
Films Focused on the Environment Promoting sustainability and responsible stewardship of the environment is a central component of our mission at Epsilon Spires. In 2022 we screened several groundbreaking documentaries exploring the impact humans have on the planet, as well as potential paths toward a healthy relationship with our natural ecosystem. We presented our screening of Aquarela, a provocative feature-length documentary that uses footage shot on three continents to explore the evolving role that water plays in our lives, with a panel discussion moderated by Rich Holschuh, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Elnu Abenaki and founder the Atowi Project, which seeks to affirm Native relationships to the land and its inhabitants, raise indigenous voices, and foster inclusion.
In our ongoing Food Systems Series, which we launched in the fall of 2022, we pair engaging educational films that investigate aspects of agricultural food production with pop-up dinners presented in partnership with the local organic microgreen farm Grateful Greens. The first event in the series was a screening of Fantastic Fungi, a documentary about the countless benefits mushrooms offer to mankind and our planet, coupled with a five-course dinner catered by Collar City Mushrooms, which uses indoor vertical farming to produce food in an urban area with a much lower environmental impact than traditional farming techniques. The second event featured a screening of the 2020 documentary Kiss the Ground, which examines the ways in which regenerative farming practices that enrich the soil can also reduce the carbon in our atmosphere. The film was preceded by a communal harvest dinner of seasonal, regionally-produced ingredients catered by Forage & Flourish.
It has been a banner year for revenue at Epsilon Spires! In 2022 we took in $10,100 in donations, $32,203 in ticket sales, and $104,975 in grants. This represents a 103% increase over revenue in 2021, while still maintaining a grants-heavy model that has allowed us to offer enriching programming of the highest possible quality to our community at low or no cost for those who would not otherwise be able to afford it.
Epsilon Spires has been extremely ambitious in our programming this year, and this drive to establish ourselves as an outstanding arts organization did result in a year-end deficit of $11,112. Part of this amount can be accounted for by grants that have been awarded but not yet paid out to us, but in the interest of fiscal health we recently completely overhauled our accounting system and hired an outside CPA to assist in transactions and reports. We have also created a fundraising sub-committee within our board of directors, and we look forward to enhancing and diversifying our revenue streams in 2023.
We are deeply grateful to all of the grantmaking organizations that supported us in 2022. This has included invaluable general operating support from the Edwin S. Webster Foundation and the David Greenewalt Charitable Trust, as well as:
We have also received generous project support in 2022 from The Adelard and Valeda Lea Roy Foundation, The Thomas Thompson Trust, the Vermont Arts Council, the Indianapolis Chapter of the American Guild of Organists’ Mozingo Endowment, and:
2021 ANNUAL REPORT
The past year has been a time of great transformation at Epsilon Spires! Thanks to support from a wide range of funders we were able to move out of a financial deficit and offer an abundance of innovative programming to the Brattleboro Community. In 2021 Epsilon Spires hosted 68 events, many of which took place either outdoors or virtually for Covid safety. For indoor programs all visitors were required to wear a mask and socially distance, which was easily accomplished in the three-story sanctuary of our building where we hold events.
Epsilon Spires was very ambitious with its programming this year, with one or two events each week during the summer (our peak season). The diversity of our programs allowed us to connect with a variety of audiences and further establish ourselves as an organization bringing world-class art to Brattleboro. In addition to fulfilling our mission of providing space to engage in creative exploration, interdisciplinary thought, and cultural exchange, we successfully pivoted our events to be safe and socially-distant, demonstrating to our community that we can keep each other safe and still find connection.
Highlights of our year included another successful summer in the Backlot Cinema, our outdoor theater. We screened a diverse range of thought-provoking and rarely-seen cinema from around the world, including films of every genre and every continent except Antarctica. This included our popular collaboration with Vidhi Salla of the local radio show “Vidhi’s Bollywood Jukebox,” who presented a series of Bollywood movies with introductions providing background information and cultural context for the films. We also began pairing movies with culinary offerings from the region where the films were made, including refreshments by the Winooski-based Somali chef Said Bulle and a sold-out five-course dinner by the Indonesian street food caterer Kaki Lima.
In July 2021, Jamie Mohr co-curated a three-day “Celebration of Black Girlhood & Womanhood through Poetry, Films & Food” with the artist and public intellectual Shanta Lee Gander. The event featured film screenings by Black women directors, poetry readings by Black women poets, specialty crafted foods by culinary artists of color, and community discussions. The success of this event inspired us to launch a new artist salon series in 2022 to connect artists of color from across the country for a weekend-long exchange of performances, workshops, and artist talks.
This year we also ramped up programs featuring our 1906 Estey pipe organ, an important piece of local history that was manufactured here in Brattleboro. Over the summer Epsilon Spires collaborated with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital to hold a vaccine clinic accompanied by live organ music, and in the fall we launched a free monthly Lunchtime Organ Series featuring organists from around the Northeast. We also began an ongoing series of silent film screenings accompanied by musicians such as cellist Lori Goldston, organist Ben Model, and the experimental trio Psychedelic Cinema Orchestra.
In December 2021, Epsilon Spires hosted electric komungo performer and Guggenheim Composer Fellow Jin Hi Kim in a performance of “A Ritual for Covid-19.” Kim developed this community ritual for healing to commemorate the more than 400,000 deaths in the United States and 2 million deaths worldwide that had occurred due to the pandemic at the time she composed the piece. The work, inspired by Korean Shamanistic ssitkimkut ritual, purifies the deceased spirit while releasing the grief of survivors. A community processional of volunteers — including healthcare and hospice workers and people who have experienced devastating loss — participated in the performance, unknotting a 100-yard white cloth, symbolically releasing grief, pain, and loss with each knot.
These examples represent only a small sampling of the incredible live music, theater, community discussions, art exhibits, readings, and virtual events presented by Epsilon Spires in 2021. We look forward to even more ambitious and exciting programming in 2022 when we open our satellite artist residency program at the Green River Inn!
Approximately 70% of Epsilon Spires’ revenue in 2021 came from grants, with an additional 20% from contributions and 10% from ticket sales, for a total income of $104,726 and a net revenue after expenditures of $18,335. This grants-heavy model allows our programming to be as financially accessible as possible to the public, without placing undue financial burden on members of our community. Our long-term plan to raise funds will build on this successful strategy of engaging local, national, and international foundations and government agencies that believe in the importance of our work, in addition to donor contributions and event revenue from patrons who can afford to support us.
Our programming was made possible in 2021 by grants from The Thomas Thompson Trust and these generous supporters: